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'EU funds are our Marshall Plan', says Polish foreign minister

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 14.11.2012 09:23
Poland is fighting to maintain funds for poorer members from future EU budgets as the United Kingdom leads the campaign for cuts.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk (right) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pose a photo at the Friends of Cohesion Group: photo - PAP / Leszek Szymanski

As Polish prime minister Donald Tusk was in Brussels on Tuesday, leading, with Portugal, a meeting of the so-called Friends of the Cohesion Group of nations which are net benefactors of the EU budget, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski was on British media explaining why a cut in spending in the 2014 – 2020 period could damage economic progress in central and eastern Europe.

“We are benefiting from [EU funds], it is our Marshall Plan,” Radoslaw Sikorski told the Financial Times, referring to the billions of dollars the United States lent Europe for post-WW II reconstruction.

The foreign minister also gave an interview to the BBC in its Hardtalk programme (audio version here).

Poland received 68 billion euro in the 2007-13 budget period and is seeking to maintain a European Commission proposal to set aside 376 billion euros for 'cohesion funds' in a draft seven-year budget totalling 1,033b billion.

Cyprus, current holder of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, cut 12.5 billion euros from cohesion in its own proposals last week, a move Poland rejects.

The European Parliament wants an increase of over 10 percent in the seven year period.

Minister Sikorski said that the new seven-year budget will be the last where Poland will be a net recipient, however.

“[W]e think this will be the last [budget period] in which we will be net beneficiaries. After that we will be happy to contribute to lift up those even poorer than ourselves,” he said.

But the increasingly eurosceptic United Kingdom is leading the call for cuts to the EU budget while national governments are making cuts to spending domestically.

“The EU has to start living within its means,” UK prime minister David Cameron said on Tuesday.

Preparations for a crucial summit on the new seven-year budget next week did not go well yesterday when MEPs from the European Parliament refused to meet finance ministers yesterday on the budget for 2013, after bills remained unpaid for projects such as the Erasmus educational programme.

"These funds are needed for the European Union to respect its legal obligations, for example, to pay for bills incurred for goods, works and services delivered," said EP president Martin Schulz. (pg)

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